Health secretary Jeremy Hunt's commitment to recruit 1,000 physician associates to work in general practice is set to cost more than £15m. Graduates will each receive £9,000 in annual course fees for the two-year postgraduate course and £6,000 as a maintenance bursary working out, at today's prices, as over £31,000 per physician associate.
To fully train 1,000 new recruits in five years will mean £15.7m being spent on training physician associates for general practice alone. And although every course offers placement with GPs, Pulse has learnt there are no strings attached to say they have to work in general practice after graduating.
To meet Mr Hunt's commitment, Health Education England commissioned 657 training places in 2016/17, an increase of 220% on the previous year, and there are now 28 courses offering physician associate studies compared to four years ago.What is a physician associate?
To train as a physician associate in the UK you will usually need a bioscience first degree, or have worked as a registered healthcare professional. They will eventually be able to work independently, but under the supervision of a qualified doctor.
Once qualified they can take patient histories, see patients with undifferentiated symptoms and formulate management plans or request investigations - except those requiring ionising radiation. However, because they are 'dependent practitioners' they will need a GP supervisor who can support them and will review and sign-off their work.
They are a relatively new role in the UK, and do not currently have any formal regulatory body or prescribing powers, however the Government is considering both of these.
Source: Pulse Today